Understanding loss of capital on shares | Wright Vigar

Understanding loss of capital on shares

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Understanding loss of capital on shares

In the current climate there will be a number of individuals faced with a potential loss of capital on private company shares. This may occur because they have had to sell at a low price or, as is more likely, the company is being wound up following cessation of the trade or it is in administration. So what relief is available?

A loss on a disposal of shares is generally an allowable capital loss for tax purposes. Whilst this is reassuring to know, this often means that there is no immediate relief if an individual currently has no chargeable gains. This is because a capital loss can normally only be relieved against current or future gains.

Relief against income

However, certain losses on shares can be relieved against general income rather than capital. This alternative treatment may provide tax relief more immediately and is also likely to generate a more substantial tax saving. This is because in 2012/13 both the income tax basic rate of 20% and the higher rate of 40% the 18% capital gains tax rate. Further if the loss is triggered in 2012/13, it could even save 50% income tax.

The taxpayer has the choice to relieve any such qualifying loss against income in either the same tax year (for when the loss is established) or the preceding tax year or both.

The conditions which must apply for the shares to qualify in such circumstances are:

  • the individual must have subscribed for the shares when issued and
  • the shares must be in an unquoted qualifying trading company.

Certain trades are excluded and include leasing, legal or accountancy services, property development, farming and operating or managing hotels or nursing homes.

What about irrecoverable loans?

Provisions also apply so that an individual lender can make a claim for a capital loss where:

  • an individual lends money (not between spouses/civil partners) and
  • the borrower is UK resident and
  • the borrower uses the monies wholly for the purposes of a trade and
  • that loan subsequently becomes irrecoverable.

Similar rules apply to payments made under a guarantee. The loss relief is not as advantageous because it can only qualify as a capital loss. This means that once established, it may only be set off against capital gains realised by the individual or carried forward until such time as gains are realised in the future.

Article as printed in the Retford Times 14 February 2013.

Technical content correct at time of publishing.
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